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Love, Love, Love The Brickworks (but wish it wasn't so spendy)

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I missed out on The Brickworks market last year but discovered it, and fell in love with it, this summer. It is such a fun - and delicious - place to start off the week-end. There is tons of great snack food - burritos with chorizo, eggs, potatoes and beans, breakfast crepes, grilled Monforte cheese sandwiches, roast potatoes with cheese and chives, JK frites, sweet potato cookies, etc. Last week, I saw Jamie Kennedy there, this week I chatted with Naomi Duguid (she and Jeffrey Alford were offering a casual cooking class). There's free water in containers and the wash station has a flat of plants underneath so as not to waste the dripping water. The place is filled with kids and dogs and there is just a really happy, fun energy. LOVE IT!

My only quibble is with the prices. I don't profess to be an expert in food economics but it just feels to me that if I'm buying local produce, in season, and directly from the makers (i.e. no retailer middleperson in between) - then how come everything feels so pricey? I understand that some of these artisans and farmers are smaller growers/makers and that their costs are higher than the "big guys" but I have to say, from the Cookstown Green herbs ($2-$3 for a wee little bunch) to the Fifth Town cheeses ($10-$12 for small pieces) and the breakfast crepes/burritos (around $8 each), everything is fabulous but spendy. It's not enough to deter me from shopping there as I really love the place and I enjoy buying fresh stuff from and chatting with the people who nurtured it (and would encourage others to do so) but it does make me wonder a bit. Anyway, 'nuff of that, The Brickworks rocks!

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  1. I agree. It's a great spot. And when you add it all up, in your words peppermint, fabulous, fresh, great food and happy, fun energy, in my mind it's money well spent. Yes perhaps a tad pricer but I don't mind in the least. I would rather spend the extra and know it's gonna be good, than go elsewhere, pay less and it's just mediocore at best.

    And tomorrow is the Brickworks Picnic, can't wait!!!!

    8 Replies
    1. re: millygirl

      Agreed. Like Polan said, "pay more, eat less". Maybe I should start taking his advice about the second part.

      1. re: millygirl

        Totally agree with everyone. I usually walk out of there spending way more than I intended, but I love getting breakfast from Chez Nous and I can easily spend $30 just at the bread vendor across from the Chez Nous stall.

        I'm *really* looking forward to the picnic tomorrow. Maybe I'll spot some fellow chowhounds there! I'll be the skinny Chinese woman stuffing food in her face at a furious pace. :)

        1. re: TorontoJo

          And I'll be the redheaded woman registering you!

          1. re: chloe103

            Boo-hoo - I'll be the teary woman at home in her living room, wishing she would have discovered her inner Brickworks self before they sold out of tix for the picnic (not sure if this sentence even makes sense but you get the gist). Please post about it - but try not to make it sound *too* amazing...

          2. re: TorontoJo

            Hey TorontoJo, it's Chez Vous. I only correct you in case someone decides to google Ezra or his catering company :)

            I'll keep an eye out for you tomorrow. I love to people watch and I can just picture myself scanning crowds for skinny chinese wondering if it's you. If you see someone looking at your strangely, it just might be me.

            1. re: millygirl

              Doh, thanks for the correction! Yes, Chez Vous!

              I'll keep an eye out for scanners. :)

            2. re: TorontoJo

              Hey TJ (my butter tart queen) - what things do you like from the vendor across from Chez Vous? Hubby had a cinnamon bun from there today - he barely saved me a bite. All her stuff looks great - what do you recommend?

              1. re: peppermint pate

                My favourite is the potato bread with sea salt. It's so moist and soft and makes amazing sandwiches (proscuitto cotto and mustard!). The cinnamon buns are pretty darn good, though it's best to ask for the ones that look especially gooey. The buttermilk bread is interesting, though not a favourite. The sourdough foccacia with tomatoes and onions on top is tasty, particularly when used for grilled cheese or paninis. Her quick breads are good, too. Yay for carbs!

          3. Totally agree, on both counts. Lots of love, lots of spending. The one difference I find with the Brickworks vs. other farmers' markets in the city (I typically go to Dufferin Grove, Riverdale, and Sorauren) is that there seems to be a higher ratio of prepared food to produce, which I think jacks up the overall price tag for the trip. But in general, I also tend to fall into the admit-it's-pricey-but-think-it's-worth-it camp.

            7 Replies
            1. re: chloe103

              Very true - the shopping is secondary to eating at Brickworks for me. We usually have our breakfast there, pick up a few bits of prepared foods and cheeses and then fill only about a bag or two with a sampling of produce. I've yet to make it to Dufferin Grove or Sorauren - how would you compare them?

              1. re: peppermint pate

                If you've been to the Riverdale market, Dufferin Grove is quite similar - it too is all organic, and has many of the same vendors. I'd say it's got the crunchiest/most granola vibe of all the markets I've been to (I don't mean that as a slam - crunchy is good in a market). Two or three bakers, the chocolate guys, a few butchers/game suppliers, the Greek olive/cheese/egg guy, Forbes Wild Food, Ewenity (sp?) dairy, Akiwenzie Fish, and lots of fresh veggie/fruit stands.

                The Sorauren market is sweet, but still very small - this is only it's first year. I go to that one mostly because I live a few blocks away, and I have this problem about being addicted to markets. :) Worth a drop-in if you're in the neighbourhood, but not yet big enough to warrant a trip in its own right.

                1. re: chloe103

                  I should also add that the Brickworks breakfast from Ezra and frites from Jamie Kenneday is a perfect way to start the day, at any cost.

                  1. re: millygirl

                    Ezra is Chez Vous, right? Yes, the grilled cheese and those potatoes are to die for. That's usually our first stop, though today I tried the breakfast burrito from the Mexican place and it was quite tasty and filling. I also like the prepared foods from the healthy caterer beside Chez Vous - Moroccan chick peas, quinoa salad with veggies, etc.

                    1. re: peppermint pate

                      Yes Ezra is from Chez Vous. He's going to be at the Picnic tomorrow as well.

                  2. re: chloe103

                    Crunchy granola works for me - I've got to try out Dufferin Grove when I have the chance. By the way, do any of you ever buy meat from the vendors at these markets? I'm sure it's probably quite fresh and tasty but I'm always a bit hesitant to dig through those freezers (plus I don't eat game meats).

                    1. re: peppermint pate

                      Small Southern Ontario meat farmers are pretty much forced to use freezing to add shelf life to their product. Without considering the energy required, freezing is a great method of storing meat. Don't be afraid to just dig in to those freezers, but be sure to ask the freezing date if it's not printed right on the package. One to two months is good when buying new stock. I have no problem using frozen meat up to 12 months after I buy it as long as I know that I controlled the storage environment after I got it home.

                      What do you consider game meats? Goat? Lamb? Deer? Elk? Bison? Rabbit? Boar? There's a world beyond beef. I've bought beef from Baretta and red deer from Deer Valley farm at the Dufferin Grove market and really enjoyed all the meals that I was able to make using these meats..

              2. anyone know how long the market runs?
                i figure that it ends some time in September.

                and yes, its pricey, but i guess you can get a burrito for half the price and likely half the quality. i usually end up spending my $$ on cheese and chocolate. the fries always have a line - if only i knew that it was JK's fries!

                3 Replies
                1. re: atomeyes

                  I believe last year it went through all of October.

                  1. re: atomeyes

                    "Running every Saturday until December 13 (8am to 1pm),..."

                    Now I have to check this place out. A farmers market por les riches. And to think up to now I've been happy with the ones in the local parks.

                    1. re: Pincus

                      i've been to the Dufferin Grove market, Riverdale Market and the Distillery Market. but my regular market is the Brickworks.

                      Brickworks has more prepared food and lots of plants for sale - that's the biggest difference. otherwise, many of the vendors are the same.

                  2. Folks, if you want to discuss the socio-economic issues surrounding the Brickworks farmers market, please start a thread on the Not About Food board. Thanks!

                    1. I read this post with interest. I've been going to the Brickworks for a while, and have enjoyed the way that it seems to be gathering buzz and legitimating organics with the trendy folk. With all of that, yes, there is a shift in the dynamics. I don't think it's necessarily as ominous as others might think. Here's my two cents:

                      Price Points: If you buy from the supplier, you cut out the middle man, and some of the costs. I've bought goods from many suppliers who are also carried in high end retailers for a fraction of the boutique retail prices. Examples are the Montforte cheeses, Akiwenzie fish, and some of the greens vendors. Forbes has been selling exotic local mushrooms that are foraged for a fraction of the boutique prices, as have the Cookstown folks. That is the right economic message.

                      It's not universal here, though. As the market has become a destination, there is a lively market for people who prepare and sell high end catering foods; and people who aggregate organic goods (there is a cheese stand that appears to be affiliated with a local cheese shop that sells at what appear to be the high end of retail prices).

                      As with any market, the key is to find the folks who make what they sell. Or the people who make things that are interesting that you won't find elsewhere. The Brickworks appears to be the showcase for many of the incubator projects that the city is assisting. Evelyn's Crackers is one that deserves attention.

                      I'd also love to hear any feedback on recent cooking demos, which have included Gary Hoyer (well known for North African) and the formidable Alford/Duguid team.

                      And those who haven't should try the guy with the bike's chocolate. Wish that guy well

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Snarf

                        Interesting. I agree that the Forbes mushrooms are very well-priced for organic mushrooms, though I wasn't blown away with the taste the one time I bought them. And the only cheese stand I know of other than Montforte is the Fifth Town cheese stand - next door, I think - but they are also cheesemakers. Are they affiliated with a store here? I don't get that sense at the market, though their prices are definitely on the higher end (some really nice cheeses, though, and I think their practice sounds very interesting).

                        The cooking classes look great but alas, with a pair of chowpups in tow, I'm relegated to observing them from afar (though I did enjoy talking to Duguid this week-end).

                        But the sentence that piqued my curiosity the most in your note was your last rec - what is "the guy with the bike's chocolate"? Is there someone selling (great) chocolate at the market (that I've missed - gasp)? Where???

                        1. re: peppermint pate

                          Fifth Town is a new cheese maker from Prince Edward County that opened in June of this year. I don't know which stores are carrying their products here yet (if any) but I had the pleasure of visiting them and they mentioned coming to some of the Toronto markets. Even at their boutique the products were fairly pricey - I spent $30 on three smallish pieces of goat and sheep's cheese. They make nice cheeses though and it's great to see another Ontario cheesemaker on the scene.

                          1. re: ms. clicquot

                            Gilead Cafe sells sereral if Fifth Town's cheeses. Lost Lake is just so TASTY.

                            1. re: ms. clicquot

                              I bought some from Garth at Nathan Phillips Square a few weeks back. I was told they're so expensive right now as they're trying to establish an environmentally sustainable organization, using wind power etc, and they're trying to be LEED certified. That's led to a pretty high start-up cost for them, but probably something worth supporting. And tasty too!

                            2. re: peppermint pate

                              Look for a long funny looking blue bike. Never in the same place each week. The proprietor sells five different varieties of chocolate he makes using bicycle power to crush the beans. He also sells a chocolate drink and some coffees.

                              The marketing and branding appear to be minimal, which makes it hard to track, but the flavours are very good.

                              Wasn't referring to fifth town. A few weeks ago, one of the cheese shops had set up a booth carrying Ontario cheeses.

                          2. A few friends and I went to the Brickworks this Saturday and were very thankful that the rain held off ... we even parked at Cosley (sp?) Park and walked down the trails....spending at least three 4 times as long trying to find the Brickworks as we did getting back....it was decent weather tho, so no complaints

                            we did love the atmosphere of the Brickworks, but the "spendiness" of the market was a bit ... deterring ... we tried some of the prepared foods, but didn't buy any produce or meats (even though we were shopping for dinner), but it was quite enjoyable to talk to the vendors and other shoppers...

                            also, are the JK fries there every saturday? is it that (kinda random) stand with the cones of fries and a deep fryer? they did look good, but at $4/small cone... i dunnoo...

                            and a few questions about the picnic.... where did it take place? we got there around 11am and didn't see any of it.. also, how much is a ticket and do u get to sample from EVERY place?...

                            we ended up going to the SLM and getting seafood and produce there... but, i want to try to go back to the brickworks.... hoping that more vendors show tho

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: msprnt

                              I see the frites stand there every Saturday and yes, it is the random stand with the paper cones and the fryer (funny that there's no signage). The picnic was on Sunday, not Saturday, so that's why you didn't see any of it on your visit.

                              1. re: peppermint pate

                                Even at $4 a cone, the fries are worth every penny! And it feels so decadent to eat fries at 9:30-10:00 in the morning! :-)

                                1. re: pâté chinois

                                  I agree tenfold. And love the slice of lemon and aioli sauce he serves on the side. Heaven!

                                  1. re: pâté chinois

                                    I so agree about the fries - $4 is a small price to pay for sheer bliss!!!! While I was eating the divine burger from Splendid at the Picnic on Sunday I was thinking if I had some JK fries I would truly be in heaven.

                                    1. re: bigos70

                                      really!!?... it's THAT good???.....

                                      i have yet to try the oft-talked about and ever-changing poutine at the JK wine bar, but if they're the same fries .... i'd want to try those first....

                                      nonetheless, next time i go to the brickworks i'll have to try them because u guys have made me ..... drool

                              2. This coming Saturday is the final market for 2008 - see you there!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: peppermint pate

                                  Then on to the Green Barns!!